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Medina v. United States

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 21, 2019

GILBERT LEE MEDINA, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITIONER GILBERT LEE MEDINA'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF NO. 218) AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          HELEN GILLMOR, JUDGE

         On March 25, 2019, Petitioner Gilbert Lee Medina filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         Petitioner seeks to vacate his March 31, 2016 convictions following a seven-day jury trial. He claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. He argues that on appeal his counsel should have challenged the District Court's compliance with the procedures set forth in 21 U.S.C. § 851.

         Petitioner did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel.

         Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 218) is DENIED.

         A Certificate of Appealability is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Indictment And Petitioner's Guilty Plea

         On May 30, 2013, a criminal complaint was filed against Petitioner. (ECF No. 1).

         On November 18, 2013, Petitioner was arrested. (ECF No. 2).

         On November 19, 2013, an amended criminal complaint was filed. (ECF No. 5).

         Also on November 19, 2013, the Federal Public Defender's Office was appointed as Petitioner's counsel. (ECF No. 6).

         On November 22, 2013, the Federal Public Defender's Office filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. (ECF No. 10).

         On November 26, 2013, the grand jury returned a two-count Indictment against Petitioner. (ECF No. 13).

         The Indictment charged Petitioner as follows:

Count 1: Conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute five hundred (500) grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846; and
Count 2: Possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2).

(Indictment, ECF No. 13-1).

         On November 27, 2013, the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel filed by the Federal Public Defender's Office was granted. (ECF No. 17).

         On the same date, Attorney Andrew Park was appointed as Petitioner's new counsel. (ECF No. 18).

         On December 2, 2013, Petitioner pled not guilty. (ECF No. 21).

         On May 12, 2014, Petitioner changed his plea and pled guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment. (ECF No. 30).

         On June 19, 2014, the Court accepted Petitioner's guilty plea. (ECF No. 36).

         Attorney Andrew Park's Withdrawal As Counsel And Appointment Of Attorney Stuart N. Fujioka

         On August 19, 2014, Petitioner filed a Motion to Withdraw His Guilty Plea. (ECF No. 37).

         On the same date, Attorney Park filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. (ECF No. 38).

         On September 2, 2014, Attorney Andrew Park's Motion to Withdraw as Counsel was granted. (ECF No. 43).

         On September 3, 2014, Attorney Stuart Fujioka was appointed as Petitioner's new counsel. (ECF No. 45).

         Petitioner's Withdrawal Of Guilty Plea

         On September 3, 2014, the Government filed a Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Withdraw His Guilty Plea. (ECF No. 44).

         On September 25, 2014, the Court held a hearing. At the hearing, Attorney Fujioka orally moved to withdraw Petitioner's guilty plea based on the written Motion To Withdraw filed by Attorney Park. (ECF No. 48). The Court allowed Petitioner to have additional time to file a written Memorandum, with the assistance of Attorney Fujioka, in support of his request to withdraw his guilty plea. (Id.)

         On October 27, 2014, Petitioner filed a Memorandum in Support of His Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea. (ECF No. 53). In the Memorandum, Petitioner explained that he believed his confession was coerced and wanted his counsel to file a motion to suppress. (Id.) Petitioner believed there was newly available evidence that supported his position and wanted to withdraw his guilty plea based on such evidence. (Id.)

         On December 2, 2014, the Government filed a Supplemental Response to Petitioner's Motion to Withdraw His Guilty Plea. (ECF No. 57).

         On December 8, 2014, the Court held a hearing on Petitioner's Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea. (ECF No. 59).

         At the hearing, the Government represented that Petitioner would face sentencing enhancement based on his two prior felony drug convictions pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851. The Government stated that it was in the process of receiving certified conviction records from the State of California regarding Petitioner's two prior felony drug convictions. The Government stated that it had not yet filed for sentencing enhancement because Petitioner had pleaded guilty before it received the records. The Government explained that, if Petitioner withdrew his guilty plea, it would file a Special Information Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851. The Government explained that the Special Information would increase Petitioner's mandatory minimum sentence to a mandatory life sentence should he be found guilty at trial. (Transcript of December 8, 2014 Hearing at p. 16, ECF No. 213). The Government stated:

And it is certainly my intention to file these 851 enhancements if and when this court allows him to withdraw his guilty plea because he has a substantial criminal record, there are - have a number of witnesses that said he had contacts repeatedly with a drug organization that had substantial amounts of drugs coming into Hawaii, and so his criminal history and his contacts with these drug organizations alone would enable me in my discretion to file those. And so we do intend to file them. We would have filed them had we got them before he entered his plea agreement, Your Honor.

(Id. at pp. 16).

         Petitioner maintained that he wanted to withdraw his plea despite the Government's representation that it intended to file a Special Information to enhance his sentence pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851. (Id. at p. 17). The Court questioned Petitioner:

The Court: Mr. Medina.
Petitioner: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: Have you heard everything that's been said here today?
Petitioner: Yes.
The Court: You heard the last thing that Mr. Roberts said?
Petitioner: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And you want to withdraw your plea?
Petitioner: Please. Yes.
The Court: I am going to allow you to withdraw your plea. I've done everything I can to get all of the information before you.
Petitioner: Yes.
The Court: And it is within the court's discretion.
Petitioner: Yes, ma'am.
The Court: I think you are of the belief that there is some problem here that will assist you, and we've gone through various factors and that's the conclusion that you have come to.
Petitioner: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And I believe that people, if they truly want to face a trial and they think that is in their best interest, then - especially when they're facing a very long sentence, then it is appropriate for a judge to allow that person to go forward, even if it is not evident that it is in their best interest.
Petitioner: Yes, Your Honor. I understand.

(Id. at pp. 17-18).

         The Government reiterated that it would seek a mandatory life sentence in Petitioner's case if he withdrew his plea based on his two prior felony drug convictions. The Government stated, “...I want to just reassert our intention not to just put - not to just file one 851 but to file both of them so that he is facing a mandatory life sentence.” (Id. at p. 19).

         Petitioner's attorney agreed that the Government was able to file the Special Information, but argued that the Government should exercise its discretion and decline to the file the sentencing enhancement. (Id. at pp. 19-20). The Court found that the Government was permitted to file the Special Information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851. (Id.)

         The Court granted Petitioner's Motion to Withdraw His Guilty Plea. (ECF No. 59).

         Government Filing Of A Special Information Pursuant To 21 U.S.C. § 851

         On December 17, 2014, the Government filed a SPECIAL INFORMATION AS TO PRIOR DRUG CONVICTION PURSUANT TO 21 U.S.C. § 851. (ECF No. 60).

         The Special Information stated that the Defendant was subject to an increased mandatory minimum sentence because of his prior felony drug convictions pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b), 851, as follows:

1. On or about February 5, 1991, Defendant Gilbert Lee Medina was convicted in the Superior Court of California, County of Riverside, in Case No. ICR-13812 of ...

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